Review: Eggsistentialism, Belltable Arts Hub 9 September

eggsistentialism-e1468285941215Eggsistentialism, 9 September 2016 Venue: Belltable Arts Hub, Limerick. Written and performed by: Joanne Ryan. Directed by: Veronica Coburn

“To baby or not to baby?” That is the question posed in this brutally honest and exceptionally amusing autobiographical theatre piece.

While suffering from a terrible hangover on her 35th birthday, actress Joanne Ryan begins to ponder one of those big life decisions and her search for an answer leads her to fortune tellers and fertility clinics alike. She mines her experience of family, cross-examines friends, observes parenthood in action and does extensive research with the dedication of a PhD student. The result is equal parts theatre, stand up comedy and multimedia presentation.

The writing is sharp, imbued with personality and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Although having a child is an immensely personal decision, motherhood and its place in Ireland and the world get an airing too. At one stage, the audience gets a speedy account of some key moments in Irish legal, social and popular cultural history in the 20th century. Her life (and egg count) might be under the microscope but introducing political context encourages the audience to think and interrogate along with her. Are women defined according to whether they have children or not? Can you have a fulfilling life and legacy without offspring? Do children make your life hell through a canny combination of sleep deprivation and extra housework, not to mention disfiguring your nether regions? There is a balance between the serious and irreverent.

ahppnbooArt imitating life is to the fore here so the acting was very natural. Ryan is a natural comedienne with a line in self-deprecating delivery. I was in tears from laughter a lot. The actress detailing her results on online parenting quizzes and reading excerpts from dodgy 1980s parenting books are particular highlights. But her jocular stage presence is offset with scenes of real poignancy too. She very occasionally slips into lecture mode, bad egg puns and playing for laughs but those are rare and forgivable. She did well to compete with the continual scene stealing of her mother, Gloria, whose recorded voice and opinions play a great supporting role. Rob, her boyfriend, and other voices pepper the piece too.

The production design was outstanding. Hats off to Pauric Hackett (production manager, set & lighting design), Sinead Diskin (sound design) and Neil O’Driscoll (animation). The animations, using 3D projection, augmented the minimalistic set and made things visually interesting, from online news articles to timelines; the cartoons ensure the play isn’t a complete Vagina Monologue. The voice recordings and music are essential to the piece and again, provide variety to the show. Many aspects of the production are impressive. It was conceived first in Hatch LK (a Limerick theatre incubation project) before being developed further with UK outfit, Theatre Uncut, Fishamble’s New Play Clinic and went from page to stage under director, Veronica Coburn.

As a woman in my early thirties, you could say I’m bang on target audience but judging by the positive reaction of the audience comprised of both men and women of all ages, I wasn’t the only one for whom it resonated. Next stop for the play is the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival (12-17 September) and Smock Alley Theatre and I would heartily recommend going to see it.

It’s difficult to stand up alone and bare your real-life hopes and fears to an audience, especially on such a private and simultaneously public topic. The play is confessional, engaging, thought-provoking and damn funny. Joanne Ryan has given birth to a real bundle of joy in Eggsistentialism.

More information on the play here.BT logo

PS: It was lovely to see a nearly full house at the Belltable again! It’s been a turbulent few years for the venue and now it’s back on track with its autumn/winter programme. For more information, click here.

It’s not you, it’s me…

Things have been slipping in NGFMR Towers and I haven’t been posting much recently. The outcry has been similar to when Princess Diana died. One reader (yes, a whole one) left a comment a while ago advising me to get my act together. I feel the need to explain. I haven’t been on extended holiday or on a cider binge or in the throes of an emotional breakdown or caught up in a diplomatic crisis…unfortunately.

The truth is I’ve had some health issues culminating in major surgery to remove a brain tumour in late April. For once, there’s no politically incorrect punchline! I think the technical term is a ‘left-frontal awake craniotomy’. I know what you’re thinking. MY GOD, THE HSE CAN’T EVEN AFFORD ANAESTHETIC THESE DAYS!!!! Don’t panic; I was conscious for a reason. Many thanks to the team down in Cork University Hospital, who took good care of me. I’m not going to bore you with the gory details. I’m recovering one day at a time. So, excuse me. I’m a little shell-shocked at the speed with which something the size of a golf ball has hijacked my life like an ardent jihadist. Funnily enough, the effect is like crashing into a building at speed. But enough about me, how ‘bout them Yankees?? I suppose I’m saying that I’ll try harder to update the blog. Call off the letter-writing campaign and the protests.

I’m outraged at quite a few issues but, since it’s the weekend you’ll have to settle for a review of ‘Sex and the City 2’. Cue title music (and blatant Apple product placement) and Carrie typing, ‘I couldn’t help but wonder if the only reason for making a sequel is the money?’ Carrie Bradshaw might know good ‘Sex…’ but this wasn’t it. It was, oh the irony, a total anti-climax.

Okay, there were some cracking one-liners that offered a glimpse of how good the writing in the series was. Like the first film, Kim Cattrall had most of the best lines. There were some funny scenes like any with Charlotte’s Oirish nanny and Liza Minnelli performing Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ at the gay wedding. Liza looked like she was brought back from the dead especially and pickled in Martini, but still… The costumes and the locations looked amazing. The soundtrack was okay. The leading ladies (and love interests) turned in solid but predictable performances.

At nearly 3 hours it was wayyyyyy too long…not the kind’ve thing any woman would normally complain about. Boom boom! (Note: Many jokes fell flat like this one). It took the same amount of time to win the battle for Middle Earth. They could’ve easily fit it into two hours or less. The plotlines were a bit laboured because the material just isn’t there. Samantha is going through the menopause; Carrie and Big are becoming ‘smug-marrieds’ and staying in too much; Miranda’s boss is an asshole and Charlotte finds child-rearing challenging. It’s not exactly re-inventing the wheel, is it? Many women have all of these problems and aren’t hitting the cocktails just yet.

And then they all go the Middle East for some reason and it descends into ‘Carry On’ style farce, with plenty of semi-offensive stereotypes (Carrie On Spending, maybe). Carrie kisses an ex, Samantha gets arrested for indecency and Charlotte/Miranda have a big chat. And an eternity or so later, they all live happily ever after.

‘Sex and the City’ was a clever book that was developed into a great tv series. It was in and of its time. It ended at just the right time and after a few years, they made a hotly anticipated, decent film version that wrapped up everything satisfactorily. This sequel is as flabby and redundant as ‘Jaws 4’…the one that’s set in an aquarium where the police chief’s son incidentally works. How does the shark even get in?? Don’t get me started…

For all the age-defying magic, the SATC girls look tired. The smiles look stretched and forced. The zeitgeist has passed. The game is up. In one episode they reference the great romantic film, ‘The Way We Were’. I think the formerly single ladies about town would want to be remembered the way they were. They say sex goes hand in hand with death; here’s hoping that the ‘Sex and the City’ franchise is set for a dignified end.

Christmas 09-The Easter bunny’s funeral and the day after tomorrow…


Despite numerous attempts at trying to do myself in with alcohol poisoning, I survived Christmas. It was a good one. Notable mentions include Limerick Races on St Stephens’ Day. Last year passed in a blur of queuing for the bar and making jokes about a horse called ‘My Fella’ and although it was quieter this year due to the big freeze, we passed it in a blur of queuing for the bar and making jokes about a horse called ‘Some Dude’. I also had my annual good night in the Icon. To think it only requires 10 hours of drinking beforehand!

Another great night had to be the fancy dress New Year’s in Ballybunion. Snowmen, Snap/Crackle/Pop, rollerskate Barbie (she even survived on the skates)…it was like the Easter Bunny’s funeral at the house party. Inspired by the races, five of us dressed as jockeys (we got some serious mileage out of those jokes), complete with hobby horses with sound effects. It was the first time that horses were allowed in either The Exchange or JD’s so we made the most of it.

Christmas is generally quiet for news but 2009 was fairly eventful. I know we’re always talking about the weather in this country but it gets more and more like ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ every day here! Ireland’s not equipped to deal with any kind of extreme. Maybe they could have gritted the roads with the sand from all the sandbags lying around. I reckon we should be ready for a heatwave this summer or or given the recent destructive trends, a tornado/hurricane.

Also, another furore over TV3 reporting that Brian Lenihan has cancer. As a journalist, I think the self righteous tone of some complaints is a bit much. The report could have been a little more sensitive and it would have been preferable to have waited another few days but I don’t think any news outlet can ignore a story like that if it has the info. Would it have been more palatable if RTE broke it?
I’m not sure if there was collaboration/consultation with the minister but that would have been an important element. It would have eventually been revealed one way or another. Nothing is sacred anymore and that’s as much down to demand and the people who consume news media as those who produce it.

It’s easy to say that someone being sick isn’t news but the fact is, if a public figure/celebrity is seriously ill, it is. Jade Goody? Many misdiagnoses/treatment stories about ordinary people have been front page news. The minister has issued a statement and is entitled to privacy but I think his humility and determination will actually be inspiring to many.

Anyway, the festivities are over and it’s back to the national past-time, all day, every day=complaining!! Stay tuned for plenty of that on the blog for 2010. It’s as close to a New Year’s resolution as I’ll get.

Funnies


Just felt compelled to reproduce these two brilliant comic strips from ‘Cyanide and Happiness’ on www.explosm.net. The balloon-boy reference is very clever.They do tend to cut fairly close when it comes to decency so not for the easily offended. If you can’t accept that sometimes it’s wrong to laugh but you have to anyway, then you probably just need a sense of humour transplant. Some day, there’ll be a registered charity for that…

Any road, C&H add a new strip every day but it’s fun to do the random selection of the archives too. One of my favourites is of a besuited stick man version of Justin Timberlake walking up to a shop assistant and saying ‘I’m bringin sexy back’. She replies ‘No returns without a reciept’ and the last panel has him saying ‘You motherf***ers don’t know how to act’. Genius.

Media storm ahoy!


Update Monday—21,000 complaints sent to the PCC about the article=most complaints EVER!

Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir

Look outside the window, a media storm is brewing. They don’t come around too often but this one is looking like a level 5, last seen in ‘Twister’. I picked up ‘The Guardian’ newspaper for the first time in a while yesterday; it’s usually great on a Saturday and on page 3, there was a rare enough sight- a newspaper openly and savagely criticising another paper/journalist for an opinion article about Stephen Gately who sadly passed away this week and was only buried yesterday.

Journalism is very much a profession conducted in the public domain so everyone sees articles in the papers and has a hop off them. It’s often deserved in some way but still generally done in private. Not so with Jan Moir. She is being tried by media and it’s already getting very personal. For her sake, be glad that lynch mobs have fallen out of fashion.

She writes for ‘The Daily Mail’ in the UK so I’m not sure if the offending opinion column made it into the Irish version. Maybe not, given that it was about a much-loved Irish singer. What could she written that was so bad? you cry.

Her article ended up with the headline ‘A strange, lonely and troubling death…’, which was a change from the original one: ‘There was nothing natural about Stephen Gately’s death’. Moir’s article says things like the circumstances in the case are “more than a little sleazy” and “under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebity, the ooze of very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see”.
She said that many celebrity lives/deaths have been “shadowed by dark appetites or fractured by private vice” and that the incident has been “shaped and spun into nothing more than an unfortunate mishap”. “He would want to set an example to any impressionable young men who may want to emulate what they might see as his glamorous routine”, she added. She also implies that she didn’t think it was caused by natural causes, contrary to medical evidence.

She has since had to write a clarification and pointed out that in the last quote I listed, she was “referring to the drugs and the casual invitation extended to a stranger. Not to the fact of his homosexuality”. Well that’s okay then!? Maybe just not say anything from now on Jan.

I’m sure the Guardian article in online and I’d urge you to read both pieces but its headline was: ‘Tabloid columnist’s take on death of gay icon provokes record level of complaints’ and it began: “It must have seemed a routine assignment for one of the Daily Mail’s star columnists; a catty take on the death of Boyzone star Stephen Gately which pandered to the prejudices of its readers.” Whoa! I know the Daily Mail was set up by fascists back in the day and is considered to be ultra-conservative in the UK but that’s still pretty strong.

It goes on to explain that there have been over 1,000 complaints about the article to the Press Council(it has since been reported to police at Scotland Yard too, yikes) and that advertisers had pulled ads from the paper/website. The majority have said that it is hateful at best and very homophobic at worst. The actor and comedian, Stephen Fry, immediately went on Twitter to urge followers to ‘complain where it matters’ and said: ‘I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathsome and inhumane’. Someone else, disturbingly, posted her home address on the internet.

The Guardian also had a short op/ed headed ‘Hateful idiocy-by any yardstick’. It accused her of dancing on Gately’s grave.

It’s a complex case, which is very interesting from a media perspective.

Firstly, there was plenty of thinly veiled speculation about Stephen Gately’s death before all the facts came to light. The exact same situation happened with Michael Jackson and Katie French, among others. The famous facts upon which news is supposed to be based seem to get a little lost sometimes. BUT whatever was theorised is best left to gossip.

Opinion pieces are obviously very subjective but that’s not to say that they can contain anything at all. We all have opinions and inevitably, some can be unpopular! I can remember at least one very similar case where a columnist (who funnily enough writes for the Irish Daily Mail sometimes) took a swipe at the paralympics because she didn’t see the point of it. The editor had to print a front page apology because of the outcry. So it’s hard to believe the editor passed Jan Moir’s article. It was very speculative and implied foul play. It appears to reveal some prejudices by the writer. Perhaps she didn’t even realise she had them but the article made comments that would be interpreted as being about homosexuality as well as being hurtful, particularly to the family and friends involved.

Newspapers are slow to say ‘sorry’ because that can be legally interpreted as an admission of guilt (the law has changed in Ireland but maybe not the UK) that can be used in libel cases. However, I’d say an apology might have to appear in this case. The clarification doesn’t acknowledge that people were offended and why. Either way, I think Jan Moir is in serious trouble career-wise because she will find it hard to salvage her reputation. The buck stops with the editor and the subs who should’ve protected her and the public.

We live in an age where almost anything goes. What was considered offensive 10,20,30 or 50 years ago just doesn’t apply. But just because the League of Decency isn’t around doesn’t mean that the media should run riot. Maybe you can’t libel the dead but that’s not to say that you can say whatever you want about them. There are real people involved and one person’s opinion can have wide ranging implications.

When the storm’s over and the wreckage cleaned up, it will be worth remembering the damage and how it can be avoided in future.